"This season the star is not the player - it is the team."
- Patrice Evra
What a turnaround it’s been for the French left-back. After an inauspicious first season at Old Trafford, during which he struggled to get to grips with both the British game and the lifestyle, Patrice Evra has shown his true capabilities this time round.
Having spent his first summer in Manchester working on building up his physical strength, the Senegalese-born defender set about proving the doubters wrong at the start of the 2006/07 campaign.
Solid in the tackle and bursting with endeavour to get forward, Evra has excelled during his prolonged run in the back four this season, making over 20 league appearances despite niggling injuries and competition for a starting berth from Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre.
Aside from his combative defensive skills, Evra’s boundless energy has impacted in the final third of the field, too. His attacking attributes, borne from his former days as a striker, played a vital role in scoring his first United goal, against Everton at the end of November.
“I remember looking around the stadium as I ran away to celebrate and thinking ‘Wow!’” he recalls. “It’s difficult to describe how I felt at that moment, having 76,000 people celebrate with me, but it made me want to score more goals!”
Evra’s impressive form continued into the new year and his attacking exploits once again proved fruitful during the Reds’ inaugural trip to the Emirates Stadium towards the end of January. Bombing forward down the left, he collected Cristiano Ronaldo’s pass and crossed for Rooney to head the opener.
Although United eventually lost, it was another polished display from the French international, who delighted United’s travelling army with an audacious two-touch nutmeg which left Gunners’ midfielder Alexander Hleb red-faced.
“It’s something I used to do at Monaco,” says United’s Man of the Match on the day. “It’s my favourite trick because nobody expects it. Cristiano came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Hey Pat, you are the new Cristiano!’”
Despite being reduced to a handful of starts in the season's latters stages by injury, Evra's earlier performances were acknowledged with a place in the PFA’s Team of the Year - just reward for an impressive first full campaign.